September 1st is the start of Pain Awareness month so I thought I would start it by writing a post on how you actually define pain.
According to the rule books pain in its simplest definition, is a signal from the nervous system that something is wrong in the body. Chronic pain is the persistent manifestation of this natural signal, and it can linger for weeks, months or years, and have any number of causes, from past injury to long-term illness to psychogenic pain-pain with no apparent physical cause.
The International Association for the Study of Pain defines pain as “an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with, or resembling that associated with, actual or potential tissue damage.” In medical diagnosis, pain is regarded as a symptom of an underlying condition.
The British Pain Society write that often the cause of pain is obvious, a broken leg, or a bruise. But there are times when the source of pain is unseen, for example a slipped disc. Occasionally it is very difficult to find the exact cause of a person’s pain.
Health professionals use different terms for different types of pain.
•Short-term pain is called Acute Pain. An example is a sprained ankle.
•Long-term is called Persistent or Chronic Pain. Back trouble or arthritis are examples.
•Pain that comes and goes is called Recurrent or Intermittent Pain. A tooth ache could be one.
Wikipedia write that pain motivates the individual to withdraw from damaging situations, to protect a damaged body part while it heals, and to avoid similar experiences in the future. Most pain resolves once the noxious stimulus is removed and the body has healed, but it may persist despite removal of the stimulus and apparent healing of the body. Sometimes pain arises in the absence of any detectable stimulus, damage or disease.
Many acute pains are like an alarm telling us something is wrong. Most minor ones are easy to treat; others may be a sign of something more serious. For example the pain of a broken leg will make us rest the leg until it heals. Here the pain is helping.
Regardless of how it originates, it’s widely documented that people with chronic pain suffer effects that are far more than physical. The mental and emotional side effects may be even more debilitating and can include stress, depression, hopelessness, feelings of worthlessness, anger, divorce, abandonment by family and friends, and even suicidal tendencies.
Above all, the main concept to understand about managing chronic pain and the stress that comes with it is that you do have control and you can help alleviate your suffering. Even if the pain persists, the suffering you feel because of it can be greatly diminished.
If someone asked you how you would define pain, what would you say?